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ARM9 SoC has mixed-signal analog onboard, too

Aug 19, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Freescale has announced an ARM9 SoC (system-on-chip) aimed at a bevy of consumer electronics applications. The i.MX233 includes a 454MHz core and adds mixed-signal technology such as analog audio, integrated power management, and a monaural audio amplifier, the company says.

Like Freescale's 2004 i.MX21, i.MX27, and recent i.MX25 family, the new i.MX233 is based on the widely used ARM926EJ-S core, clocked in this case at 454MHz. But, according to the company, the SoC adds a variety of mixed-signal analog technology — analog audio, A/D channels, and integrated power management — that was acquired with the 2008 purchase of SigmaTel.

Freescale says the mixed-signal technology, which provides such features as a stereo headphone amplifier, 1.5 Watts of power for a mono speaker, and an S/PDIF digital output, reduces system complexity and speeds time-to-market. In addition, the i.MX233 is said to incorporate an image processing unit supporting 24-bit VGA displays.

As a result of all this, Freescale claims, the i.MX233 is an "optimized system-on-chip" solution for eBooks, portable media players (PMPs), and other mobile consumer electronics applications requiring graphical user displays. Additional applications are said to include VoIP handsets, smart remotes, home appliances, audio peripherals/accessories, and simple human machine interface (HMI) systems for industrial applications.

A block diagram of Freescale's i.MX233
(Click to enlarge)

According to Freescale, the i.MX233 is available in two packages, either a 169-pin BGA (ball grid array) version or a 128-pin LQFP (low-profile quad flat package) version. As the block diagram above indicates, the LQFP version fits into its smaller package by leaving out the BGA version's mono ampllfier, touchscreen controller, and I2S (serial audio) interface.

Freescale says a Linux board support package (BSP) and multimedia codec library for the i.MX233 is available now, along with an EVK (evaluation kit) discussed later in this story. A Windows CE BSP is "expected later this year," according to the company.

Features and specifications listed by Freescale for the i.MX233 include the following:

  • Core — ARM926EJ-s clocked at 454MHz, with 16KB I/D LI cache
  • On-chip memory — 64KB ROM, 32KB SRAM
  • External memory support — DDR1, mDDR, external NAND
  • Storage — 2 x MMC/SD
  • Display — LCD controller supports 24-bit displays with 640 x 480 resolution; touchscreen support on BGA version
  • Mixed-signal analog I/O:
    • PAL/NTSC TV encoder
    • 2 x I2S (serial audio)
    • 1.5- Watt monaural speaker amplifier (BGA version only)
    • Stereo ADC/DAC
  • Other I/O:
    • High-speed USB host/device with integrated PHY
    • UART
    • 12-bit low-resolution ADC
    • GPIO
    • 2 x SPI
  • Operating temperature — 14 to 158 deg. F (-10 to 70 deg. C) standard; -40 to 185 deg. F (-40 to 85 deg. C) optional
  • Operating system — Linux BSP and drivers available now; Windows CE support later this year

i.MX23 Evaluation Kit

Together with its new i.MX233 SoC, Freescale offers an Evaluation Kit (EVK) that "allows designers to quickly prototype and demonstrate the results of their development efforts in a small, portable design the size of a 5 x 7 portrait." Optionally, the EVK can include the 4.3-inch touchscreen display module pictured below.

Freescale's i.MX233 EVK

According to Freescale, the EVK includes the i.MX233 SoC itself, 128MB of DDR2 memory, and 2GB of NAND flash storage. The device also includes DC-to-DC converter components and a connector for a lithium-ion battery, the company adds.

Real-world ports on the EVK are said to include an Ethernet port with RJ45 connector, two serial ports, plus a speaker connector and audio jacks for mic in, line in, and headphone output. USB host/device ports and an SD/MMC card slot are also included, says Freescale.

Further information

Freescale says production quantities of the i.MX233 will be available in October, with pricing (in 10,000-unit quantities) ranging from $5.11 to $5.88 apiece for the LQFP package, and $6.03 to $6.79 for the BGA package. Meanwhile, the EVK costs approximately $400 including the Linux BSP, while the 4.3-inch touchscreen display module is an additional $200.

More information about the i.MX233 may be found on the Freescale website, here.

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